The 1977 musical, Annie, is based on an eleven year old girl who was abandoned by her parents at an orphanage as a baby. The musical features the well known song, “Tomorrow”, in which Annie (singing to another character) displays a sense of hope and optimism about what tomorrow will bring. A section of the lyrics are as follows:
“The sun’ll come out tomorrow-Annie: The Musical
So you gotta hang on ’til tomorrow, come what may
Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you, tomorrow
You’re always a day away.”
The character of Annie lives a life that I am completely unable to relate to. Abandoned by her parents and mistreated by the woman who runs the orphanage where she lives and despite the hand she has been dealt and the harsh conditions she has to live under, she relentlessly holds on to the hope and dreams of a better tomorrow. I don’t know that I would be able to remain so optimistic if I were in her shoes, when I am having a rough day I sometimes struggle to think that tomorrow will be any better than the present day; and yet for some reason when we think of tomorrow we tend to believe it will be.
We all have days where in the moment, we wish it was already tomorrow. These are days that seem to be never ending; days in which we might be having trouble at work or school, days where there might be sick kids at home, days that we spend dreading an impending bill or home maintenance issue that may be causing us to worry. Anxiety inducing, worrisome, frustrating days that hold no sense of hope for the present; only hope for what the future of tomorrow might bring if we can only get endure long enough.
While not facing anything that would cause serious worry, I have been thinking about the elusive promise of tomorrow this past week as I struggled to achieve the daily goals I had set for myself, as I fell behind on my work here at DividuusOne, as days passed without posting anything to the blog, as I felt like for every inch forward I moved; I took two giant steps back. I just kept thinking that that tomorrow would be better, that I could accomplish anything in the magical land of tomorrow. As I was trying to reconcile my feelings about being behind and unproductive I came across a graphic posted by Kat Boogaard on Instagram (www.katboogaard.com). I have shared the graphic below and as you can see it is a bar graph displaying two bars; one representing the amount of work an individual has the time to take on and the other representing how much work the individual actually takes on. There is a vast discrepancy between the two bars in this graph and this discrepancy could be why we feel like we need tomorrow in order to accomplish what we could not today.
I saw this graphic after a weekend where I got to spend an amazing amount of quality time with my wife and son. It was a rare type of weekend for us where there was nothing scheduled on the calendar. With that we spent time doing yardwork in the back, watching television and playing games in the living room, going out to dinner and just enjoying each other’s company. Since I didn’t have any commitments demanding of my time this weekend one might think that I would have spent the weekend working on this project. Not so much, instead I put it to the side and just tried to be present in the moment all the while knowing the work would still be waiting for me later. As Sunday came to an end my wife and I talked about how great of a weekend it was, how with nothing that we had to do, we were able to do so much together. Come Monday morning, I had no regrets about how I had spent my weekend; in fact it was one of my favorites in recent memory, but looking at my to do list I was already thinking about what would have to wait for tomorrow as there would not be enough time to get it done today.
While the idea of tomorrow brings with it hope, optimism and a promise of a new start, tomorrow isn’t promised. Tomorrow may offer the idea of a clean slate as you drift off to sleep at night, but the problems of today will still be there when we wake up in the morning. The idea of a perfect and magical tomorrow is a fallacy, a fantasy, an unrealistic dream, instead our focus should be on the present, today. In the musical, Annie was eventually adopted by a billionaire, she got her tomorrow but she had to spend eleven years dreaming of it before it actually happened. We don’t have eleven years to wait for that perfect tomorrow to arrive. What we have is today. Today may not be going that well for you, you may have reasons to already be thinking about tomorrow; but today is not over yet and you should be thinking about what you can do to make today better?
I must be in a musical kind of mood as that has me thinking of the musical Newsies. In the 1992 musical a group of boys who sell newspapers band together to strike against the newspaper publishers after they increase the prices for which the newsies buy the papers they sell. In the musical there is a song called “Seize the Day” which contains the following lyric; “Open the gates and seize the day, don’t be afraid and don’t delay.” Yet again, the characters in the musical are living a more challenging existence than I can relate to as the majority of them are orphans trying to get by as they stand up for themselves against a far more powerful foe; but the message of the song is clear; we cannot afford to wait for the elusive tomorrow, we need to take advantage of the day we have today.
Now I am not talking about the idea of “carpe diem”, which according to the dictionary is more like live for today without thoughts of tomorrow. We should all be planning for tomorrow, and without sabotaging tomorrow be thinking about what can realistically wait until then in order to make today better. If we go back to my example of my weekend with my wife and son; I knew that after a series of days where I felt a bit down on myself and unproductive that what I needed was time with the family to get centered and remember why I am doing this. I knew that meant the work I was forgoing throughout the weekend would be waiting for me when the weekend came to an end, but I also knew that it could wait and that I needed to seize the opportunity to be in the moment with my family, to just enjoy myself and the time we had together. Life is busy these days; it gets to be a bit overwhelming between a full time job, making progress on things here, bills, home maintenance, school, responsibilities at church, and trying to spend time with family and friends. It’s like that graphic of Kat Boogaard’s, sometimes I take on more than I have time for and just need to let it go and spend my time where I get the most value for it, with my family.
Author Dean Jackson is quoted as saying, ” Stress is the distance between where your thoughts are and where your life is happening.” Your life is happening right now, open your eyes and look around. While the stress of today may have our thoughts on the hope of tomorrow, we aren’t living in tomorrow yet. We are living today, and this isn’t Groundhog Day so you won’t have to live this day over and over again, but you also will never get today back; once it’s gone, it’s gone. Do an assessment of what is going on today, what it is that has you wishing for tomorrow. Can that wait till tomorrow without causing even more stress? Can you just do what you can today and make the best of it? Can you seize what’s left of today and be present in it? Tomorrow is not promised, but if it doesn’t come then what you were stressing about today doesn’t really matter anymore anyways, does it?
We can be both Annie and the Newsies at the same time. We can sing songs about how the sun is going to come out tomorrow and the hopes, dreams, and promises that brings; while at the same time crashing through the gates and barriers that are holding us back from seizing today. Like the songs say, tomorrow is only a day away but we can’t be afraid and can’t delay, we must seize the day.